Valentine’s Day, 2012

Little Jim, resting

Today was a jumbled day of both good and bad things, and nothing is organized in my head, so this won’t be a nicely written post, but I want to get it down on ‘paper’.

Jim has been having another go-around of disc trouble, or, if it’s not a disc, back trouble of some kind, the same thing as last time.  It helped that I’ve been through it once, and he’s recovering pretty quickly this time.  But he hasn’t been eating well, and I was very happy to see him eating out of his bowl this morning (I’d been handfeeding him for several days, and using a dropper before that).  Anna Belle also chowed down beautifully.  She’d been a little under the weather, and I was glad to see her back to her old form.  She and Jim have both had a little diarrhea with bloody mucus–nothing I’m worried about yet, but I’m watching and trying to figure out the cause.  Grace has a lot of nasal mucus, even more than usual, lately, but her overall health seems somehow better–can’t figure that out, yet.  She ate well, too, and the overall tenor of the morning, judged by the dogs’ breakfast, was positive.

(I just reread that paragraph, proofreading, and saw what I’d missed, when thinking of them individually.  It seems to be a mucus issue!  Must look into this.  Could eating pork make them produce more mucus?  Or could it be ground beef?  I’ve been feeding both those things lately…and actually, the poops I’ve picked up today from the big dogs have been more mucus-y, too!  Will ask people whether it’s likely to be the beef or the pork–I’m thinkin’ pork, which I don’t feed often.)

While I was guarding Jim and his bowl, to make sure no one finished off his food while he was thinking about having more, I returned a phone call.  I’d been excited to get a message the day before from the head of our downtown animal shelter.  I’ve written here that my loved friend Jeanne is battling inoperable cancer.  Well, she’s asked me to do a little homework for her about pet charities in the area, and I’ve investigated a couple of different options.  This particular phone call was very satisfying, and maybe something good is in the works.  I’ll write more about it, I’m sure, if we can get it off the ground.  I am very happy that I get to see Jeanne in person, later this week.

I made another call, to the veterinary rehab place nearby, in order to reserve the pasture they rent out for dog play.  They’ve recently made a rule saying that they’d like no more than four dogs per handler, so I took P.D.Z. out for a walk, so he wouldn’t mind not going this time.  I wanted to give him something more special, though, so for the first time I took him upstairs to ‘Jemma and Soyer’s room’, and gave him a tasty little bone, just right for his small but powerful jaws.  He got right to it.

Then I loaded Burberry, Soyer, Jemma, and Daisy into the car.  This would be Daisy’s first time at the pasture, since they’d wanted her to have been out of the shelter for two weeks before coming.

~interruption–I’m delighted because Jim is on my lap, eating another serving of food as I type~

The pasture was a bit of a bummer today.  There was always someone coming or going, and Soyer spent a good part of our time running the perimeter, which tended to rile up Jemma and Daisy (and even Burb barked, slightly persistently, which isn’t her pattern).  This was my first chance to see Daisy in a more challenging setting, and because I don’t know her well, when I saw her arousal level rising, I decided to keep her on leash for awhile.  I was glad I’d done it, because she must have gotten a little too wound up for Jemma, who tried to tell her to knock it off.  The two dogs snarked at each other, and because of the leash, I was able to separate them fairly easily.  (In this case, I don’t think that Daisy’s being on leash contributed to the problem, but of course I’m not sure.  In general, I believe that dogs off leash feel more in control of themselves, and are usually more able to ‘keep their noses clean’.)  Soon after, I decided to call it a day there.

At first, I felt shaken up and bummed out by this.  But when I thought back to how the two dogs had gone to each other almost immediately, touched their noses together, and looked at each other with soft eyes, clearly saying, ‘No hard feelings, right?’, I felt better.  (And they played together beautifully all evening here–I think we’re good.)  There were other things making me feel better, too.  One was that, although this was a first time situation for me, I’d handled it very calmly, contributing no angst to the situation whatsoever.  I realized that I’ve learned so much about dogs, in less than a year, that I’m not even close to being the same person I was last Valentine’s Day.  If I’m right, it was on February 26th last year that Soyer came to Rochester.  There’s been a sea change in my life since then, and it feels to me like a very good one.  So this one little fact I’d learned, that dogs who appear to be ‘fighting’ almost never come out of it with even a mark on them, represented to me right then a whole body of dog knowledge I didn’t have, at this time last year.  I guess I hadn’t fully realized just how much work I’d done, and I feel good, having that in my skill box.

After I’d settled all the dogs, bringing P.D. down from his quiet room, where I saw no sign of his bone anymore, I went out to teach a music lesson.  Because I’ve been open about having been married to an abusive man, women often open up to me about their own problems, and I’ve been having some heart-to-heart talks with this student’s mom lately.  As I drove home, domestic violence was on my mind, and whether it was because of that or not, I don’t know, but when I got online and a fellow rescuer I’d just ‘befriended’ on Facebook told me that her ex had stepped on her little dog by accident and killed it, the same day her mother had died, I wondered whether it had really been an accident, or whether he’d subconsciously resented her dog, and the time she herself was spending at her mother’s hospital bed.  I carefully broached the possibility, and was stunned and really grieved when she opened up and said that he had been abusive, and that she didn’t think it was even subconscious–she felt inwardly sure he’d killed the dog on purpose.  He’d given the dog to her as a manipulative ‘guilt gift’ after one occasion when he’d been horrible to her, and she felt that he thought the dog was his to do with as he liked. 

I’d just finished being teary-eyed over my 16-or-17-year-old dog Jim, as I assembled a photo album of pics of him for the very talented artist friend who’s going to paint his portrait in watercolors, but the woman’s story made me cry again, for the unfathomable pain she must have felt and for her little dog, and with gratitude for the fact that I’d been able to keep my pets safe, even as my ex began to show animosity towards some of them.  He, too, had been resentful and awful as my dad was dying, and all kinds of memories came flooding back, memories which made me grateful for this Valentine’s Day spent without any troubles of that kind.  I looked down at Jim and thought that, sad as I was at the thought of losing him sometime fairly soon, it was no small thing that I’d been able to give him such a long and happy life, and I realized that all signs were that I’d be able to do the same for the rest of them.  

Still teary, but riding that surge of confidence, I went upstairs to get Jim some more food, and to get myself a piece of Toblerone.  Fresh from thinking about how glad I was that my ex was out of the picture, I said to myself, ‘Very good–you provided yourself with chocolate on Valentine’s Day!’ and I bit down and promptly broke a tooth–my first one–on a piece of the nougat.  Oh, that makes a person feel old…

But I’ll end on a small but magical little event that happened after I’d fed the dogs their dinners.  Soyer and Jemma eat in ‘their’ room, and Daisy eats in ‘her’ room next door, because Jemma and Soyer eat very quickly and I don’t want them hanging over the slow eaters’ bowls, and Daisy is still new here, and I want her to understand that she will never have to compete for resources.  They rest in their rooms while the slow dogs finish, and then I invite them downstairs, and they come as fast as they can, stopping only briefly to take a couple of bites of the cats’ food.  🙂  But this time, Soyer didn’t come, and I went up to his room to see what was keeping him.  He was sitting near his bed, and he looked at me very intently and beseechingly, almost desperately.  Oh, no, I thought, he’s sick!  What could have turned him from a boundingly healthy dog into this worried fellow in just twenty minutes?  I began asking him, checking his nose, petting his head to see if it was warm, but he seemed fine, yet he continued to look at me with those very intent eyes–he looked human, and I felt a little afraid.  Then he sat down again, very pointedly, facing (strangely) the corner of the room, and I realized he was using the signal I’d taught him last March, so that he’d always have a way to ask me for anything he wanted.  I followed the direction of his body, and saw a ball I use as decoration.  I asked him if that was it, but he indicated no, by his lack of interest.  Then he did an amazing thing–I’ve never seen it before.  He picked up his right paw and held it perfectly still, straight out in front of him, parallel to the floor.  It looked nothing like his ‘shake’.  It appeared to me a deliberate attempt to tell me something.  It almost gave me goosebumps.  I’ll never forget it…

~interruption, during which I cleaned mucus from Grace’s nose, had a realization about Soyer, and really did get genuine, honest-to-goodness goosebumps~

I realized it was a deliberate attempt to tell me something, and not only that–he was copying the gesture I use to tell him the same thing–he was pointing, not like a Pointer dog, but like a human being.  OMG.

Even though at the time it was all too weird for me to realize what I realized just now, I got down on my hands and knees to see if I could see anything strange (I was thinking, ‘mouse’).  He began scrabbling at a pile of clothing which had partly fallen out of a big storage bag.  I moved the clothes a little more, to help him.  And then he reached in and delicately picked up something with his teeth, and showed it to me.  P.D.Z.’s bone!  He’d buried it, and Soyer, although he could have eaten it as an after-dinner snack, had wanted to ask me if it was OK for him to have it!  Good boy, I said, good boy, Soyer, you eat that bone!  And he ate it, looking happy, and after that he came downstairs and was my dog again, not a furry visitor with special powers, from another planet.   

Well, everything is normal here now, after a slightly abnormal day.  Grace is making a big fuss over something which I’ll have to puzzle out–it’s not one of the obvious ones.  Maybe she just wants me to come to bed–Brigadoon used to do that, and Grace IS part Terrier (and, come to think of it, her Terrier part could easily be Cairn).  Annie has walked in, ready for me to lie down next to her in the big bed–that’s a ‘for sure’–don’t need to puzzle it out.  If I don’t get into bed right away, she goes back to her bed, and tries again in a few minutes…there she goes–I missed her this time, but I’ll hurry up now.

I am very thankful for this life with dogs I’ve made for myself, hard as it is at times.

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3 Responses to Valentine’s Day, 2012

  1. 🙂 I love reading your posts.

  2. Wow, i am glad i waited until i could take time to read the whole thing and savor it, WHAT a day! so much happened, amazing interactions among all the beings!
    It breaks my heart to hear about the purposeful killing of your friend’s little dog, it is so hard to understand what makes a person like that “tick” – and there are SO MANY in our world, we should be able to understand and handle it better, not sure why it is not a priority in the world of public health.
    Mija and Bean got into a proper fight the other day over food, they are both scavengers and swoop in on Honey’s bowl the minute she leaves it unattended, so that is what they were fighting over. I sprayed them with the nearest spray bottle, has a touch of organic cleaner and essential oil for disinfectant, nothing harmful but a little more bite than plain water. Mija especially jumped right back, i was so proud of her. They also snuggled and played like normal later.
    Do you use dairy products in your dogs’ food? That can cause a lot of excess mucus in people, maybe in dogs too. I don’t eat or feed pork so not sure whether that would have an effect, Archie is sensitive to beef, but it makes him itch rather than mucous-y…

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